tv National Security Advisers CSPAN December 25, 2011 12:15pm-1:40pm EST
and women's voices need to be heard and women need to be protected as they assume a position at every table in the country to make decisions about the future. so it's - there's no formula or guidebook that you can look at. but those are some of the general principles by which we try to think through and do our work. >> one more - one more question. introduce yourself, please. >> i'm mark lehgan, and i'm on the faculty of the master of science and foreign service program, and i'm thankful that dean lancaster has asked me to be on the advisory board of the new institute. i've got a question that was
informed by being ambassador cdebaca's predecessor heading the human trafficking office at the state department. i saw there that prevention is as important as the activity afterwards, after the gender crime, the human rights abuses, the breakdown of the rule of law happens. i was delighted to see your emphasis on prevention, getting women involved up front, and political participation. as you roll out a presidential plan, i would imagine that the prevention matters would be the ones that would be hardest to maintain the momentum on for implementation. what do you think you can do to look at that prevention side and make sure that sticks through the years following on to this plan? >> great question, ambassador. and, obviously, it's something that we work on a lot because what often happens - and it's not just in international affairs; i mean it is also in our own domestic resource allocation. very often prevention gets short shrift because you deal with the crisis and then it's a kind of circular argument, maybe we could have avoided the crisis if we'd actually spent more on prevention.
so it's one of those conundrums that we face in policy across the board. but certainly in this particular area of women, peace, and security, the more we can invest in prevention - and it is broadly defined. there are programs which we think work. there are interventions like the global cookstoves alliance that can prevent perhaps more women from being assaulted or killed as they seek firewood. there are programs that support ngos and even other governments' efforts to protect and empower women. so we have to be smart about what we invest in, especially in these budgetary times but really any time we need to be. and we also need the metrics, the measurable outcomes. we have to be quite clear about this. we can't continue supporting programs because we know the
people and we like them, or because they worked 10 years ago but they're not working today. so we have to be creative and innovative and very clear-eyed. now i do think we have some tools that we're beginning to understand better how to use, and that's cell phones and the internet. equipping women with cell phones so that they can get information in real time about matters that are important to them empowers them in ways that we couldn't have imagined just a few short years ago. getting information to go to your area of trafficking, trying to get broader information about what to look out for, be aware of; don't accept that nanny job or that factory job without really going to this source of information and trying to vet it. there's a lot of ways now, since cell phone usage is just exploding all over the world, that we can be smart about how we use technology to empower women to protect themselves.
i think that prevention is going to be a major pillar of this whole policy that we are developing, and we're looking for good ideas, we're looking for good outcomes. and as part of the qddr that i commissioned two years ago that we're now implementing in the state department and usaid, we have to be quicker on the evaluation. that's something that raj shah and don steinberg and their team at aid have really zeroed in on -- how do we get more real time information so we can support what works and, frankly, no longer support what doesn't work, so that we can shift those scarce resources somewhere else. i think that we know for sure that making changes in laws that give women an economic stake protects women. it is a prevention strategy; so that if - since 60 to 70% of the small holder farmers in the
world are women in africa, asia, latin america, and many in many places, particularly in africa, if a woman's husband dies, if her father dies, she cannot inherit the property that she has spent years working on and been the primary harvester of the crops. well, changing that gives women a status that protects them, to be honest, and gives them a stake that is recognizable. if a woman shows up and says, "i own land in this province and i want to be part of helping to resolve this conflict," that carries a higher status than if you show up and say i'm a market lady and i sell vegetables that somebody else grows. so all of this is part of the cultural milieu that we have to understand better, and i think we're getting smarter about it, and we hope that prevention will always be right up there with - among our other strategic priorities. thank you.
ahis week, chris van hollanen, democrat. working with republicans, and his work on the deficit reduction committee. that is today at 6:00 on c-span. monday, a look at efforts to get a third-party candidate on the ballot in all 50 states. then, richard norton smith, presidential historian, on the legacy of george washington. that is live at 7:00 on c-span. henry kissinger recently said the objective of the national security adviser is to enable the president to make decisions in the country's best interest.
decisions in the national interest. that means nothing should fail for a reason that was discovered and was not discovered. when i was appointed, i had no such perception. i did not know how to organize the office because it did not exist. president nixon, whom i had not met before he appointed me, we
jointly called on president eisenhower. he designed the outline. eisenhower's conviction was that no department should run the process. this would be difficult for the other departments to accept. it led him to propose that the chairmanship of the committee should be in the white house. that should follow the various points of view. this is how it has been maintained.
>> there was a real continuity. a lot of people talk about how divided we are, in national security establishment, there is a continuity. do you agree with that? >> the national security council is established in statute. congress set it up in 1947. its only has four members. the president, the vice president, secretary of defense, and secretary of state. it is given a general charter to coordinate all aspects of foreign policy. that is all that is said. the question is what structure would come under attack. dr. kissinger really established that structure. subsequent presidents have modified did a bit, changed the labels. the basic structure is the same. under our constitutional system, the family is -- the president is given a lot of authority. it is the road the national
security council system that the president organizes the government, brings up the information that he or she needs to make decisions. how a president really runs that system changes dramatically with the president. the details of it are not in statute. they are executive order. they are changed by the president. the genius of the system is that it can adapt to the management style and personality of the president. that is true of the national security adviser's role. your role is heavily dependent on the president and the president's style and the kind of relationship you have with the president. the last thing i would say is that it is a great job, but a
really is a staff job. you are helping the president do a job. you are not running any agency. you are not conducting operations. that is what the cia, defense department does. your job is to try to coordinate that process and make it succeed for the president. we had a little saying that if something went well, it is to the credit of the president or the secretary of state or secretary of defense. if something went poorly, it was because the national security adviser failed to court and a properly. -- failed to coordinate properly. >> there is a tremendous amount of continuity in how the national security adviser operates. the flexibility is a man or in part, to adapt to the needs of the president, and to adapt to the needs of time. when president clinton became president, the cold war had come
to an end. it allows you to adapt and bring new people to a table -- to the table. there was york -- there was more participation by the economic agencies. you would have people from those agencies involved. that is the beauty. the president can take the basic structure and use it to coordinate his needs and challenges of the time. the other parts important to remember is that part of it is this policy formulation process, making sure the information and choices are made available to the president. you want to have a robust debate. it's a different perspectives. there is also the output side.
once the president makes a decision, that decision gets implemented. the perspective, the mandate is carried out across the board in a very diverse community of factors that are necessary to implement policy. >> you have seen this from a congressional perspective. do you agree about the continuity? how does that come across in congress? >> let me start from a different vantage point. i did work and the white house, too, but not in the national security council. i worked in the carter white house in the west wing as the deputy secretary to the cabinet. the nsc was right down the hall and a rookie named madeleine albright worked there. we were good friends because we had worked on capitol hill and together before that, something that stands out to me is that it was a fairly small office.
small enough for him to be a hybrid. that job -- i do not think that has ever happened before or science. -- or since. it was a small group of people. now it is enormous. yes, i am sure there has been continuity in many ways, but the growth has been geometric. obviously, i am a member of a totally dysfunctional body called the united states congress. [laughter] feel sorry for me, will you please? i worked on the security committees and certainly, at the dicey period it was 9/11 forward.
i intercepted the national- security apparatus of the two bush terms, plus early obama. what stands out as a member of congress is the independent branch of government is supposed to write the laws and do adequate oversight. how hard it is to get information from the executive branch, especially on controversial issues, because more and more of the decisions on national security were made in the white house, not in the department headed by confirmed secretaries. the white house, the nsc our staff positions. the president deserves to have personal staff. there is such a thing as
executive privilege, which when used responsibly, it is the right thing. however, it was incredibly frustrating to do proper oversight in my role as ranking member on the house intelligence committee for many years when i could not get to briefings or information because, for a variety of reasons, the decisions, the information, the decision makers could disappear into this large space called the white house national security . >> -- security space. wantid all the president's consensus positions brought to them? the delight arguments to be made in front of them?
-- did they want argument to be made in front of them? i just want to get a little insight into the presidents themselves. >> i worked with two presidents. nixon knew an enormous amount. he studied it, he traveled t. he had ideas, and he knew what he wanted. but he also wanted to hear the actions. he preferred to read them down to see the confrontations in front of him.
he had a personal aspect and that he did not like to order somebody to do something that he knew that person did not want to do. he would prefer to do that [unintelligible] [laughter] the procedure was there were detailed papers that were too long for investigative journalists. [laughter] he would listen, and she would withdraw. and a day or two later, -- he would listen, and then he would withdraw.
it was the weakness of the system, but it was very diplomatically down. president ford had no such inhibitions. he was less of a reader and less of a student of foreign-policy. that affects the sort of information that the president requires. president ford was in the second term of president nixon, so he could not develop the design aspect that nixon had.
although he did extraordinarily well, considering the handicaps. it was two different systems. you cannot draw final conclusions because nixon was president during the liquidation of the vietnam war. there were tensions that would not exist in a normal situation. it was very systematically done. the options were presented, but the acceptance of these options -- they were willing transmitted
with an explanation -- they were rarely transmitted with an explanation, but simply orders. >> one of the things that sometimes washington does not appreciate enough is how much the president is the decider. there is a lot of speculation about what the secretary of state thinks, with the secretary of defense thinks. what matters in our system is what the president of the united states thinks. the nsc system is designed to but the president in a position to make those decisions. bieber talking earlier, most presidents, at -- we were talking earlier, most presidents think they are ready to make these decisions. the question is how you design a system to help the president make those decisions. it varies with the personality. george w. bush, he wanted his
national security principles to have talked to the issues and to have worked the issues. we would do that in formal meetings, but in the last three years, i started having tuesday afternoon snack time. i would have the others in my office add 4 ko'd 30 tuesday afternoon and i served soft drinks -- at 4:30 in the afternoon and i served soft drinks. it sweetened people's disposition. we would walk through the most difficult issues. at the end, somebody, usually the vice-president would be saying, this has been a great discussion. now we need to have in front of the president. we would have it in front of the president and that is what he liked. he was not a memo man. he wanted to have a direct
interaction. we would have a good discussion and then he would go off and make a decision. because of the problem henry talked about, when he would come back and say, i've made my decision. antelall condoleezza rice o the decision. i would say, no, mr. president. you have a phone that goes right to the secretary of state. you need to tell the secretary of state. there are the chain of command. you need to call them yourself. and he was. >> the president like to be part of the conversation. that made for a very lively set to enter changes. he was a voracious reader, he had a lot of sources of information. he liked to get people in the
room to discuss. it was inherently suspicious if you gave him a consensus. he would then argued the opposite. he would tell you all the reasons why that was a bad choice. he wanted to test the consensus. he wanted to hear what the thinking was behind it. it was informal. in general, he really wanted to understand the thinking and to test his own questions against the thinking of others. it was a very interactive process. he did not use a decide on the spot trade he lied to come back and tell people why he decided that. we became very conscious of his own responsibility. he would always say after a difficult debate, at the end of
the day, this is my decision. i am the one taking responsibility. i value your advice. certainly, as time went on, that sense of competence and responsibility group. it is very impressive when you think about -- the president has to step up to the plate. >> i have not worked in the nsc, but president obama came to the presidency with very little foreign policy experience. he has turned into a voracious reader of intelligence information. apparently, he loves it. he has spent a large part of his presidency on foreign policy issues. he stepped up to some very tough
ones, like the kid down of osama bin laden, for example. -- like the take down of osama bin laden, for example. bush -- i was one of the so- called gang of 8. we were brought down to the white house to the situation room and told about a surveillance program that the bush administration was undertaking. we could not bring staff. we could not take notes at of the room. we did not ask anybody about anything because it was so highly secret. this exposure to this kind of material comes under a
procedure in the 1947 national security act. it was not until the president revealed the existence of the surveillance program publicly that i could call a few people and check a few things out. at which point i learned that the program on which i had been briefed was being conducted outside of the law congress had practiced. i had not understood that from the briefings, which i cannot describe the briefings even now. i am a reasonably trained lawyer. what happened after that was a lot of jockeying around and finally, congress was more fully briefed. this law was amended to cover the activities in question. i think that was the right result. it was awkward and painful, but
the law has to be followed. congress has to exercise oversight. the involvement in the u.s. during the obama administration in the nato exercise over libya was arguably -- know what is absolute about this ---- no one is absolute about this -- the war powers act should have been invoked. at any rate, that did not happen. it did not happen. there is still enormous resentment by many in congress. this pedal may not be sympathetic. -- panel may not be sympathetic. [laughter] some members of congress are very upset about congress being disrespected in a process that
did involve an expenditure of a billion dollars and the deployment of considerable defense assets by our country as part of an international mission. >> we talked a little bit about -- isn't much different when a president is reelected? -- is it much different when a president is reelected? is the president more confident? in your experiences, we have a wide range of presidents to deal with. is a second term president much different? >> i can testify to that.
at the end of the first nixon term, the vietnam war was over. we have the triangular relationship -- the next up was going to be to improve relations with europe. that design could not be implemented because within four months, watergate blue up -- blew up. part of the second term -- he still did some extraordinary things. that is not a good example. that is an example under extreme
circumstances. it is not a good example of how the system -- it's enabled nixon to continue making a decisive decisions at key moments. i do not think can -- i think it was a national tragedy, a self- inflicted and parts, -- in parts. >> let me state without for a moment. as the watergate crisis intensified, what was that like dealing with national security issues? >> nixon made a distinction
between domestic and foreign decisions. the nsc personnel were not invited to come encouraged to participate in any domestic decisions. we did not even know the evolution of the watergate case until its blew open. major problems arose, but the challenge by the north vietnamese, and we continued the system. the amount of time the president could devote -- the first part
of the first term has to be used to establish where we are in the world. much of the second term is the implementation of that. that was accentuated. we said of something that was a special auction group. -- set up something that was a special action group. operations were previously discussed in that group before it went to the president. there was one. period were no chief of staff
had been appointed. secretary shultz, treasury secretary, and the head of the federal reserve sort of screened decisions because there was no system working. that was only a three-week period. it was a painful atmosphere that had all the elements of substantial achievement. >> on this notion of the second term, no one elected president really knows what they are in for. no one is really fully prepared
to be president and i think most people do not really know what the job is like. if you have been a vice president for a period of time, if you had a father who was president, but when it is really doors, and the responsibility is on your shoulders, it is all the difference in the world. nobody is quite ready for that job when they step into it. secondly, everybody, hopefully, learns on the job. they learn very quickly. thirdly, over the first term, they have made a lot of decisions, and very tough decisions. 9/11, invasion of afghanistan, decisions about iraq. you have been through the crucible a bit. by the end of the first term,
the president knows what the president thinks. said a lot of policy framework in place. the second term tends to be more about implementation and execution. it is very clear a second term president is very different than a first term president. the national security adviser's role and system needs to adopt a little bit for that transition. -- adopt a little bit for that transition. >> there is an awful lot of learning on the job. there is no job to prepare you. all presidents have faced enormous challenges in their first year or two. i wrote a book just before coming into the obama administration about the first year of presidential administrations in foreign policy. if you think about our history and how many perilous moments we have had during that time. you'll have learning curves
about how do make decisions. you'll have learning curves about how you work with your team, how you interact with your counterparts around the world, about what the dynamic is of the world your living hand. there is a sense of what you need, what kind of information, what kind of process, and where you want to take it. it is why there is a sense in which people really do step up to the plate over time. a president can say, i kind of know where i want to go, i can sense an agenda for my second four years. i worked in the senate, too, for five years. it is a challenge. it is true that the national security adviser does not testify before congress and the white house staff does not. in the clinton administration, we tried to find other
mechanisms. there were a lot of informal consultations. all libya, the president called leadership of the congress down to the white house days before he made the decision to intervene. we had extensive conversations. i testified in number of times to the senate foreign relations committee. i understand. there is a deeply felt in congress that there was not enough engagement. i know exactly who the senior republican is. it is legitimate for congress to respect that. i did not dispute that there has to be engagement. there has to be dialogue to
reflect and respect the confidentiality and to respect the role of the congress. >> i agree with that. it is important to remember that our constitution provides checks and balances. it does that for a reason. a good brake on presidential auction, when it works, it is a functioning conference that has bipartisanship. and great expertise. when that relationship works well, i think it helps the country and it helps us make better decisions. just a couple of comments about a second term. presidents in their second term are not running for reelection. that frees them, to some extent, for good or bad, to do things that they would have been reluctant to do as they work
seeking reelection. many people talk about president obama in terms of getting through this election, if he is reelected, he might take on some issues that have been put off. i have my personal list, and i hope it does that. that is another point. finally, though, the experience that a president has does matter. i am thinking about eisenhower, who, i think, as a skilled military general, but organizational skills to the security job and at the white house that have been unrivaled since. he had a committee that took a 10-look forward. his cabinet -- 10-year look forward. his cabinet meeting were much more interesting than some other
presidents. rather than have a kind of show and tell exercise, were each cabinet member would report what he or she had been doing, and he put a topic on the table. the cabinet was aware in advance and they would interact and discussed the topic. i am not sure how much of it was on foreign policy, but that is a much more interesting way to organize a very talented people in need to bond with each other and bring their own skills to this. i think it will be interesting to see if president obama wins a second term, how this foreign- policy changes because he is freed from the reelection process. >> dr. kissinger has to leave shortly, so we will have one more question for him.
i will ask this to the entire group. all of you have had to deal with very tough decisions over time. president nixon, president ford, vietnam, china, the soviet union. president bush with the war and terror. iraq, afghanistan, the weapons of mass destruction. he had to do with the transition of the cold war national security policy to moving beyond that. what was the toughest decision looking back to you had to make? >> that's a very good question.
we went on alert twice in the crisis. we did not agonize over that decision. that was done under tremendous pressure. you had to make a quick decision. a lot of time was spent on that decision in the beginning of the nixon administration and it was how to deal with vietnam. there were 550,000 troops in place. nixon made the decision that we would begin to extricate ourselves. how do extricate yourself as
the meter -- leader of an alliance in the middle of the cold war and to maintain the position of the united states in the free world than maintain the options open with china. we went through many agonizing things with a military outcome which we thought would preclude that. there were proposals low withdrawals that were not made -- were severeal proposals of withdrawals.
there were many crisis point. it gets very quiet in the crisis. there are decision makers that ball away. there are events that impose feelings and it can impeded you leading to a decision. in my experience, the key people who make the decision in the crisis moments work together and were not arguing.
>> we were glad to have dr. kissinger for the time he was able to be here. what is the toughest decision you had to make? >> for president george w. bush, there were three things come papers was how to respond to 9/11. in 2008, he said he did not campaign as a national-security president but a domestic president. a lot he got accomplished, he
did not, but at 9/11, that all changed. then he became a wartime president. how to respond to that, we could have all kinds of discussions. what was right? what was wrong? the bottom line is that, you have seen with president obama and iterations elated with the congress is that what has emerged as a national consensus about how to deal with the war on terror. it has transcended two diamonds -- administrations. the second thing would be our iraq. if you read the part i had read in 2004-2006, we were losing this war. the president asked me to the national security advisor and i was very concerned about a rock thought, great.
i'm going to be the national security adviser during another vietnam period. it had not succeeded on the battlefield and was rejected when it came on. those of you that remember, it was a dark time for our country. the toughest decision i think the president made a was the troop surge, the additional change in strategy which transform the situation on the ground. it presented a situation whereby the end of this year all american troops will be out of iraq with honor having accomplished their mission. the future is uncertain and it will be decided by the iraqi people. it was the toughest decision he made and certainly the right one. the third was the financial crisis which was, you know, at the end of eight years in
office, up one. i said, "mr. president, i think you have had everything in your administration accept the earth being hit by an asteroid." and he said, "sheeh. there's still time." very difficult decisions that the president had to make in order to prevent a repeat the depression of the 1930's. >> obviously a hard question, and there are different types of hard decisions. a decision at president has to make to send american service men and women is the hardest decision by definition. you ask people who volunteered to defend their country to put their lives it rest. i know being involved in the president's decision to intervene in kuntsevo weighed very heavily on him. he was persuaded he was right but had to continue to look into
the eyes of these people. you have to go in assuming that it will happen. i think that has a kind of wait where there's no way to really share or understand how wavy decision that is until you have to watch a president make that decision. the second decision will probably surprise you but it was his decision to go to pakistan during his trip to india. not only because there were questions about that having an effect on the image that he was trying to portray in terms of building our relationships but because of the serious risks to him he was perceiving from others about the danger of going into pakistan. he was so persuaded we needed to not lose that relationship and the consequences of this year -- simply going to that subcontinent and not going to
pakistan were so consequential that he thought he was going to do that despite the advice. it is the kind of decision only a president can make for himself, but he stepped up to the plate and i think it was the right decision to make. the policy one on enlarging nato, the president invested a lot at the beginning of this term with president yeltsin and building a new relationship with a new and democratic russia. he knew the decision would be deeply resented and would have the consequences for the relationship with russia. he had to balance against that the feeling of eastern and western europe to be part of this community that had been their vision and aspiration for so long. these two jurors is about the landscape and the different risks had a very deep and long term consequential wait for american policy.
there were different views of prioritizing and different senses of risk. there was one in which the president had to think deeply about what he thought the core values were, the core strategic interests come and make a decisive choice one way or another. you had to go one way or another and ultimately he decided that sustaining the democratic movement did keeping faith with that commitment was important, and i think it was right on. >> i remember as momma bought. i remember this secret service having covered that time in the presidency and were very concerned that someone would fire a missile at air force one. there was a lot of precautions taken on taken off and landing. when he left to go to as momma bought, it was a very controversial decision. he did not want chesley and hillary to be with him because of the concerns of his safety.
as i remember, when he was taking off, at one point it was a plan to have him pretend to get on one plane and really get on another plane. there was some debate about people thinking him be on the plane and we would all but the press on that plane. [laughter] we did not appreciate that, but we heard about that discussion later. anyway. >> congress gets involved in some of these decisions, too. we have been dragging on the executive branch, but on 9/11, for example, at 9:00 a.m., i was heading to the dome of the capital, where the intelligence committee was housed come and it is now in a bunker. out of nowhere came these
attacks -- that is not really fair. i had been on something called the congressional commission on terrorism which had been one of three commissions that had predicted there would be a major attack on u.s. soil, but nonetheless, to the surprise of everyone on that beautiful morning, and all of you were involved, this happened. as a member of congress with senior responsibility for national security, it was very personal to me. congress immediately did the wrong thing which was to close the office buildings and capital. at a time of great crisis, the congress needs to be open to serving our government. it finally reopened later in the day, but to be supportive of an enterprise where there was no disunity on that day, everyone understood it was an attack against america, not just a political party or some some group.
try to find a way to force that unity was an enormous occupation for every member of congress, and probably still is. we represent -- i used to represent 700,000 people who looked to me to represent them here. i always took that very seriously, and i think members of congress to do that to those who live much closer to the ground level than a president in representing 300 million people as a spy at the larger group. the decisions since 9/11 have been excruciating, very, very tough decisions to vote on some of these issues. somewhere right, some are wrong, and the mistake that congress made -- there have been a number of mistakes, but i think something henry kissinger said the sticking in my mind.
if you're focused on national security wherever you are, if you are in a fairly senior chair and a very serious about your work, there is a bond forged among those people. i was in a rare position in congress where i got to know the senior national security people in both the bush administration's and in early obama on the intelligence side and the fence. i served on the defense policy side and got to sit next to mr. kissinger for a day and a half this week which was amusing. all these people know each other from different ages, different administrations, but that is a good thing. you want that to happen. it does not mean we agree on every decision, but the fact that there's some collegiality, a spirit of shared enterprise, i think should make everybody a little bit more assured that the
primary work of the united states government, to protect the security of the american people and defend our country, is getting a lot of brain cells focused on it. >> people probably do not appreciate something on that, and i can express my appreciation to steven. one of the most important things is a presidential transition. you cannot imagine how perilous and as, especially when there is a change in party. the world is watching. people who do not wish the united states well are specially watching. i have been transitioned in and out, as havs steve. it is remarkable the amount of support that takes place when we were preparing president obama's transition. what we did in terms of providing the transition for the continuity was absolutely a extraordinary.
it is not only a testimony to the professionalism of the people involved but the common denominator when there are differences, but there's still a sense that came from president george w. bush to obama about this being a shared enterprise. >> i do want open this up for questions. i have one other question i will ask the panel and then we will go to yours. i will not do with the moderator's of the debate did and just ask you to raise your hand, that is too simple. i would ask you could just look at the range of challenges we have a and i would like to ask what you think the single biggest challenges to our national security today. is it still terrorism? the war on afghanistan? dealing with china, on nuclear
proliferation? there are so many things we're dealing with now. if you had to pick one, what would it be? >> one of the things about the modern world is that the people in national security positions are dealing with 12 or 14 things at one time. it is just the world in which we are in. there's a lot that has to go anyway, but getting our economy back on track as a national- security issue. [applause] it undermines everything we need and want to do overseas, so that would be number one. secondly, there're two areas of the next decade where a lot of important issues will get decided. what happens in asia, which is where most of the economic growth will happen over the next decade, and what happens in the middle east with the arab
awakening. these two things need to be a real focus. after some conversations day, i will tell you i am very worried about what is going on in europe on the economic and financial challenges and the potential blow back here. got, as my olde boss used to say, it when he would ask what the challenge of the day was. "inside every challenge is an opportunity, and your job is to find it and take advantage of it for the united states." [laughter] that is what the people in the white house get to do now big time. >> i agree with steve. president clinton would certainly agree. the economy. it is more than just getting our fiscal house in order, but the broader sustaining of our competitiveness. i am 18 now, and i'm focused on making sure we have opportunity
for our young people. it is equally distressing for me to see people coming out of graduate school and not having the opportunity to build the opportunity for their children. that is the platform for america to sustain and preserve its interests around the world. without it, we cannot do anything else. if you look at the history of the competition with the soviet union, the reason we succeeded is because we could sustain it in they could not. we have a strong civil society and we have to sustain it. we will not be able to meet any of the challenges, so i agree with stephen. i think concerns a proliferation, and we are on the cusp of a very dangerous time. it will really become a domino effect if i ran moves forward and others will feel the need to move forward.
that's also the danger non-state actors will get access to nuclear materials. it is a concern of mine if we think about the challenges and the need to sustain unopened and vibrant use of these technologies that can sustain our economy, our freedom, our vibrant civil lives in ways that do not also threaten our security. there are challenges out there, but we can meet them. we can meet them if we do we need to do at home to sustain that. >> last word on this? >> i agree. a couple of additional points. there's a very interesting piece in "the washington post" today about the future in this arab awakening. he points out that the most important thing in these emerging democracies will not be
constitution's but smartphones. if you think about it, smartphones enable us to be linked to each other and smartphones enabled these early courageous protesters to communicate the message and not be shot down. the world is geometrically changed in the challenges we have going forward. at least a in the foreign-policy side of things, our biggest challenges fashioning a narrative about what america stands for that is not perceived in much of the world as being anti-muslim, and what we do to project our power with the bombs in countries. it is a misunderstanding of what we are about, but it is very important to talk about the values that were just discussed and demonstrate what we are about to millions of people all around the world that those of
the belly is we actually live by. >> we will take some questions. i will go from one side to the other. >> unfortunately, you preempted my question. i'm trying to think of it all back question, and it has to do with how important it is for a president to have some kind of understanding of a culture and history, and be sensitive to that, different peoples, in which this is a shrinking world in which we are more involved. the state department disposed to use that expertise, but nixon seemed to be exceptional in his grasp of the big picture. do you recommend that a president actually do some kind of scholarly warming up on the history of china on, the middle east, or so forth? >> and jane? >> the question was about
whether people really need a cultural understanding of the different parts of the world. i would say yes, and a respect for differences. i say yes to that, too. i am not sure if any particular president need to bring that inventory into the white house, but woodrow wilson was our oly ph.d. president who was highly skilled in foreign-policy issues and he was only a public servant for two years before being president. i think not only a president but congress needs to have some skills and understanding about the different parts of the world. [laughter] -- [applause] i think it is just appalling to hear barely recent members of congress bragging about the fact that they do not have passports. it is not that everyone needs to take a vacation wherever, but it
is being willing to travel to and learn about the troubled spots in the world. it's attracted to make. -- a tough trip to make. it was extremely useful travel and it helped me do my job better. i think it is a very good question and i think we need a -- we have a cultural sensitivity gap that is huge and it is one that we should both recruit people in our government to bring those skills, including language skills, but also reach out to people living around the world to learn from them how they perceive their own lives and how they perceive us. a little humility would go a long way. [applause] >> what i was found remarkable is that of all the things the
president has to do, it is amazing how veracious they are as readers. i'm just exhausted at the end of the day. presidents do have this understanding that they do need to find a more broad way to get their agenda across. they're not just reading memos but different perspectives in history and culture, and other things. i think it is great. people are well served by that. there is a need to get to the broader community. the old days were diplomacy could only be a matter of heads of states and ministers dealing with each other are long past. understanding how what we do will be underserved by the people of pakistan or brazil is every bit as important as understanding what the president and the vice minister will say to us when we meet at high-level meetings. some of the village biggest challenges we have had is
because how when we think we're doing the right thing, how would is perceived as those other people. how we will do will be perceived by others and understanding that is critical to make sure we achieve the wanted results. >> the more cultural experience and understanding we have, the batter, but i would echo two things. one is respect. you may not understand all these cultures, but you go in and show respect to the people, whenever the cultural background, it gets to a long way. secondly, presidents and member s of congress traveling. and you get respect for showing up rather than having them expect to come to you. >> there has rightly been a lot
of discussion about the process of the national security council and how the discussions are managed when there is time to make a decision. i'm more interested in when there is a crisis moment. how do you manage a crisis and make sure the president is hearing from who he needs to hear from? >> anybody want to start with that? in a difficults situation in those moments where you have to respond quickly or the failure to act quickly is consequential and you are balancing the need for a decisive response with having the information that you need. just one example from the clinton administration is after the bombings of our embassies in africa. there was a clear impulse to just act very quickly and respond because there was a need
to show that we were going to get out and have a response and having a better sense of where it came from and why. it was the back-and-forth about wanting to take more time to develop a stronger case of conviction before we respond or are we brisking bible delaying that we will have an effective response all the facts -- or are we risking this by the land? it was constantly being balanced, more information verses a response. there is no magic answer. you have to decide if you have the of rationing need to make the decision. what would be the consequences of it turning out to be wrong because you thought you knew what had happened and then it turned out it was otherwise? there is numo magic answer. it is difficult for the team to decide how you make those trade-
offs. in each case, it really depends on the experience that the team itself has in being able to come together quickly and and use the ability with technology being better to convene the senior advisers, be available at all times, and look at what we know, what we do not know, what might we know more of if we wait a little>> you can be sure, despil the best efforts, you will not know all the you should know. you just cannot. yet you have to make a decision is made on partial knowledge. if it goes bad, as so many do, there will be a commission of hundreds of people spending 10,000 hours. they will find all the stuff that you wish you did not know and do not know and could not know.
that is how it is. a lot of tough decisions, you have an hour-and-a-half to make. the world does not stop when you're dealing with a crisis. you can be sure that you will not have the information you need. >> we have time for one more question. >> 24-7 news spends more time generating news and interviewing each other than reporting the news. [applause] i think that it leads to a lot of polarization. not just between various cable channels that we are all aware of, but also sometimes the
conservative channel for the liberal channel, they seem to argue with each other and polarize each other. >> i knew you would have thoughts on this one. >> it is a problem. i am an old school reporter. not one that likes to or will take positions on things. but it is the whole notion of the provocation of the news cycle. everything has to be pushed to the extreme. there have to be immediate decisions. i remember when president clinton took over. he said that there was a missile strike or something, turned on the television and all of the commentators were talking about the success and failures of the mission. it is a huge problem. but it is not just the 24-hour news cycle. more and more in this business,
we are pushed to make snap judgments as far as -- echoes far as we can. [applause] >> it is easy and fashionable to push around the 247 networks. it puts a lot of pressure on the administration. but i think that in some ways i think that presidents are starting to get used to it. beginning to figure out that at the end of the day, your vindicated by the results of what you do. you know that you will be vindicated by picking up the plant to see if it is growing. i and the end, you are judged by the outcome.
and to release steel ourselves for the short term, hanging there when you have convictions about what you're trying to do. unfairly judged by the outcome. >> we can talk about the 24-hour news cycle, but one of the things it is important is that a free media is terribly important in this country. as a national security practice, the news was a terrific source of information. especially some of these intrepid reporters in combat zones or afghanistan four months on end with a perspective that is extremely important for people in washington to get. there are tensions between the government and the press, but it is a terrific resource for this country. >> i agree. i would add one thing.
from my perspective, it is different from steve and jim. if you are running for elected office, the pressure is around you. organized groups of various kinds, it is hard to find room to think and deliberate. it takes enormous courage to tell anyone of these passionate groups -- let's assume they are well intended. what i do may not seize any of the fashion people yelling at me, but it will do what i think is the right thing to do. marshaling the personal courage and energy to do that is very
hard. i think that it is human nature. people compound these decisions and take the easier course, whenever that is. that is not so good. we will let our best people and encourage them back in, and " -- including younger people to run for office. to be in what is supposed to be the greatest delivered a body of earth, the united states congress. a huge help for the republican. instead of having silly season, where the most outrageous thing gets the most attention, would
it not be nice if the most intelligent thing up the most attention? [applause] >> i would like to thank you for being with us and being here, taking an interest in this important speech. [applause] >> coming up, the former attorney general, robert of gonzales. then, bill clinton and some of his campaign staffers remember his presidential run. after that, chris christie and sheila bear, honored as a top american leaders. jack abram loft was convicted and sentenced to prison in 2006 for fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy.
he talked about his experience in his book, capital punishment. you can see that today at 6:30 eastern, here on c-span. >> i am here arguing in favor of higher taxes on the wealthy. i am one of the wealthiest 1%. >> would you be willing to donate to the department of trust? >> all the need to do is donate to the government with your credit card number. >> that will not help anyone. >> you do not want to donate to the government? >> you are being silly. >> i am a video journalist. i would say that we are doing is like citizen journalism. when an individual without much training in journalism has the tools of modern technology to
capture a live event but does not have a background in journalism. >> michelle fields is reporting on issues for the daily caller, tonight on q&a. >> alberta gonzales serve for the judged -- george w. -- alberto gonzales server for the george w. bush administration. he recently spoke about his experiences in that george of the bush white house and his thoughts on current legal issues. this was part of an event sponsored by the birmingham, alabama chapter of the federalist society. it is about 20 minutes. -- 40 minutes. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2011]